Breaking news… Human bodies change throughout the lifespan—and this is supposed to happen! It’s difficult to remember such a simple fact when we’re bombarded with messages telling us otherwise. From puberty to childbearing (for some) to aging to really aging to the moment of death, we are trained to distrust and dislike our bodies. We are brainwashed into thinking that life would improve if we could “fix” our bodies to fit the status quo. So very sad. And simply not true.
When I was a child, I was delighted that my body was changing, as most children are who haven’t been traumatized at an early age. I wanted to be tall like my sisters, and I wanted to grow up so I could do all the things they could do. Unfortunately, when I hit puberty, I no longer wanted my body to change. I got sucked down under the wave of pressure to conform to diet culture. Unconsciously, I wanted to stop the inevitable process of turning into an adult woman. At the time, no one was talking about this issue, so I was left to navigate it on my own, as so many others were. Thus began my ten-year struggle with body hatred, six of those years spent with a life-threatening eating disorder.
I would have sold my soul to the devil to have a different body than the one I had. My legs were short and stocky (still are!) and very strong, and, horror of horrors, I didn’t have a thigh gap (yes, the desire for one’s thighs not to touch was a thing in the 1970s, though the term “thigh gap” had yet to be invented).
I was aware that my body was more similar to my mom’s than my dad’s, but instead of being happy that I inherited my mom’s body, I was resentful that I didn’t get the long, lean legs of my dad’s side of the family. I had no concept at the time of the immense power of the matriarchal line of women I come from. And that this body of mine (including my legs) is part of what gives me so much power.
I recently took a trip to Tanzania where I saw replications of skeletons of the earliest hominins at a museum I visited. It blew my mind to realize that my lineage goes all the way back to these beings. My ancestors who existed at the beginning of humans on earth were able to survive, thrive, procreate, and continue to do so until the moment that gave me life. I experienced a sense of euphoria that in words came out as, “I LOVE THIS BODY!”
And the older I get, the more in awe I am of my body. I feel blessed that it’s still here after all I’ve put it through in my lifetime. I cringe when I think of how I treated it when I was young. I thank my lucky stars daily that I was able to heal from my eating disorder on my own when help was scarce. I am truly grateful for all of the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth that has happened in my life since those difficult times. I honor that the pain I experienced gave me the wisdom that I carry into my work today—wisdom that is held in every single one of my cells.
It is my primary relationship, as my body and I are not separate entities. We are one. There is no breaking up with my body. I honor that coming to terms with this notion may be more complicated for others, especially for those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. I respect each person’s experience living in their unique human body and hope that every individual is able to live an authentic life.
All this said, we still have bodies that change over time, no matter what we do to and with them. And we live in a society that makes it ever so hard to experience these changes.
I like to remain mindful of what the consequences would be of not aging and changing. Yes, you got it… death. I’m of an age where I have experienced the loss of many people close to me, both old and young. I feel fortunate to still be here, and I remind myself that this is due to having a living body! How fleeting this life is, in this particular moment on the planet in this particular body—no matter how long I live.
My wish for you is that you don’t take having a body for granted. And I hope that you will say “thanks, but no thanks” to all of the messages that tell you something is wrong with the size or shape or color or ability or age or hair color and texture or whatever the fuck it is that the people in your life tell you you should change about your body. This is your one life. This is your one body.
I’m not saying that if you love and respect your body, things will suddenly be a bed of roses. Life is hard and painful at times. And some days you’ll be totally freaked out about having a body. But here you are. This is it. What do you want your life to be?
I would be honored if you’d like to join me in exploring the aging process and/or the task of parenting and caring for another human life. I’m teaching half-day workshops on these two topics on December 8th in Berkeley, CA, using the Model and activities I’ve developed over the past 20+ years in my work to help people heal their relationships with their bodies. I hope to see you there!